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Cambridge LibGuides

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Accessibility and inclusivity: Cambridge libraries toolkit

An introduction to Universal Design (UD)

The website of the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design provide the following definition of Universal Design, citing the Disability Act 2005:

"1. The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used

i. To the greatest possible extent

ii. In the most independent and natural manner possible

iii. In the widest possible range of situations

iv. Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability, and 

2. Means, in relation to electronic systems, an electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems so that they may be used by any person."

Essentially, Universal Design means that environments, products and services informed by its principles are as inherently inclusive as possible. The principles state that people should not have to make adjustments, but should be able to use things due to the way they have been designed, developed and built. 

The 7 principles of Universal design are outlined usefully at the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design website. They consist of:

  • Principle 1:    Equitable Use
  • Principle 2:    Flexibility in Use
  • Principle 3:    Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Principle 4:    Perceptible Information
  • Principle 5:    Tolerance for Error
  • Principle 6:    Low Physical Effort
  • Principle 7:    Size and Space for Approach and Use

Click here to read more about the principles of Universal Design at the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design website. 

The website also provides case studies of award-winning examples of Universal Design in practice, along with information about the history of Universal Design and associated policy and legislation.

Thinking about Universal Design in your library

Knowledge of the principles of Universal Design can be a useful way to think about the library services we design and deliver, with the aim of ensuring that they are as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Why not try applying the 7 principles of Universal Design to an aspect of your library, for example, the physical space, your library website, even your LibGuide!

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